Packing your bike for air travel can be daunting.... let us break it down for you!
1. Be sure your seat dropper is all the way down, and hang your bike in a bike rack.
2. Remove both pedals (spacers too if you have them!) and both wheels. Put pedals in ziplock, along with spacers. Put brake chips between brake pads (to prevent caliper being pressed during travel and having to bleed your brakes upon arrival).
3. Remove your brake rotors, and place in ziplock or pouch along base of travel bag. Must be kept flat during travel and not allowed to bend.
4. Remove your stem and attach bars/stem to frame (We prefer to detach at the stem/steerer tube interface vs stem/handlebars, so you keep all your angles the same, and it's simply less bolts to remove).
5. Remove fender and place in bag.
6. Remove chain quick link and place quick link and full chain in ziplock (this allows you to fully tuck the derailleur away in the next step).
7. Remove rear derailleur (leave the hanger on), and zip-tie the derailleur between the rear chain stays. I always run a zip-tie through the attachment bolt at the rear derailleur to hold all the spacers, etc. together during travel.
8. Add foam along the frame if you would like more padding.
9. Place in your bag and tie down accordingly.
10. Deflate tires slightly, and put wheels in wheelbase along sides of the bike.
11. Stuff your bag full of all your gear!
Of course, bike bags vary in size and layout. While the steps above will help you break down your bike for travel, there may be an extra bike-specific step to add.
Note: Before flying, be sure to check with your airline about weight and size restrictions. Currently, American airlines will let you fly your bike for $35 if the bag is less than 50#! There are also embargo's throughout the world that may impact your ability to fly a bike with a certain airline into a certain country. Do your homework, and check these details!
Oh, and don't carry CO2 in your bike bag- it's unlikely to be found, but very possible you'll get your boarding pass taken away while boarding at 11pm in Colombia, and bags taken off the plan while police search your bags. Oops. At least they let us back on the plane... eventually!
Once you get to where you're going, simply reverse the process!
See you at the airport,
When choosing a handlebar, first consider your riding style. Do you prefer XC, DH, Enduro, or are you a cruiser? Are you a petite female who prefers riding DH, or a tall lanky man who races XC?
Flat vs. Riser Bars:
Bars vary from a flat bar (0mm rise) to a medium rise (20mm), to hi-rise (35/40mm). Generally speaking, a flat bar will pull your body low and to the front. Your steering will be very precise at lower speeds and on flat trails, as more weight is distributed over the front wheel. However, on steeper trails, riding can become challenging due to the forward biased body position over the front wheel.
On a high rise bar, your weight is more evenly distributed as the body position is more open, and torso more vertical, shifting weight rearwards, in comparison to a flat bar. This allows for easier unweighting of the front wheel, and generally better descending than a flat bar. However, at lower speeds and flat trails, steering is less precise, lending the rider to actively ride farther forward to weight the front wheel, and maintain maximal control.
Bars vs. Spacers:
Overall bar height is affected by the rise of the handlebar, but also the number of spacers under the stem.
To break it down, riser bars affect vertical height only. Adding or removing spacers (under the stem), on the other hand, affect vertical height as well as horizontal reach. Better said, if you go from zero to four spacers under your bars (keeping the same stem length), your reach distance will decrease, while total bar height (ground to bars) will increase. If you go the opposite direction, from 4 to 0 spacers, your reach distance will increase, and bar height decrease.
Generally speaking, wider bars are for more aggressive riding, while narrower are more of a standard on XC bikes. Wider bars generally mean greater leverage and stability, however, may be uncomfortable for smaller riders as the grip is wide (mind your shoulders too!). Not to mention, wider bars can be a challenge for narrow trails.
Sweep is relative to wrist and shoulder positioning. A brand will generally have the same sweep across the entirety of their handlebars. Don't overthink this one. Pay more attention to rise when choosing the bar.
Aluminum or carbon? Carbon is generally lighter, stronger, and much more stiff than aluminum. This translates into increased vibration dampening, and precise control. Nick and I have been running carbon bars for years, and are big fans!
So we've talked about a lot -- how do I choose a handlebar? Mountain biking is a very dynamic sport, across varying terrain. Everyone has a personal preference regarding comfort -- on a mid-rise bar, if you generally run a tall spacer stack, and are on a longer DH bike, perhaps try a hi-rise bar and shorten the stack. This will push your grip position horizontally away from you (increase the reach) putting your weight more over the front of the bike (greater traction!), while keeping same bar height. Or keep that mid-rise bar and play with spacer stack height. If you're racing XC, start with a
Generally speaking, there's no one rise that's recommended for everyone, as its truly personal preference, and much related to your riding style. Moral of the story... next time you need a new bar, try a different rise. Play with spacer height as well and ride a variety of trails.
Our Favorite Handlebar:
Our go to handlebar is Race Face's SixC 35mm carbon bar, 35 mm rise. It allows for a wide range of versatility in terms of bar height. If we're riding a longer bike, we can have a smaller spacer stack as well as the ability for the grip position to shift forward (longer reach) as we remove spacers, while maintaining an aggressive riding position. Realistically, we could go to a 20mm rise, and add more spacers under the bars to get the same vertical bar height, however, the reach would be shorter than our current setup, not our preference.
The SixC carbon bar currently comes at 800mm, however, both of us prefer a 760mm bar. The bar comes with graduated cutting marks on each end for cutting purposes. We measure twice, and cut once -- the bars were noticeably more stiff at 760mm compared to 800mm, but not so stiff they are uncomfortable or bother the joints.
We've been running the SixC for 4 years now, and have never broken a bar. They are lightweight, strong, and offer a good "feel" while riding. Regardless of our riding and racing, we put on new bars every year as they are our main connection to the bike outside of the pedals. Not worth it for a hairline crack or a weakened bar, albeit we have never had any issues or seen any hairline fractures. We've beaten and abused these bars over the years, and they are without a doubt the best on the market for feel and longevity. Not to mention they come in a variety of colors so you can color match your bike!
Next time you're shopping for bars, give the SixC a try. If you have a 20mm rise already, try a 35mm rise and ride a variety of terrain. Learn what you like, and take into consideration your riding style and preferences.
See you on the trail,
Kim and Nick Hardin
First things first, Dumonde Tech knows whats up.
Dumonde Tech was started in 1985 around the motorsports industry: clutch oils, engine oils and 2-stroke mix. In the bicycle world, they are known for their array of greases, and chain lubes, specifically the Lite (yellow) and Original Bicycle Chain Lubes.
What follows is an unbiased a review as possible of the Lite and Original Dumonde Tech Chain lubes. The only reported difference between the two is concentration, according to DMT -- with the light being less concentrated for easier application and optimum performance.
Consider this review relative to riding mountain bikes 5 to 6 days a week, primarily in the PNW (loam > fine dust).
How much do you know about chain lube?
The Dumonde Tech Lite and Original chain lubes are literally liquid plastic that through polymerization (via heat and pressure while riding) forms long-lasting "plating" on all chain surfaces.
But really, what does this mean?
It means that the plating bonds to the chain -- the lube literally can't be washed off! This makes for extremely environmentally friendly, durable lube that lasts and lasts and lasts. Your drivetrain can thank you later, as the more you use Dumonde Tech lube, the cleaner your chain and drivetrain will actually get -- It literally purges old (other) lube. This means that your equipment will last longer, saving you money and time.
Fun fact: Before using Dumonde Tech, we would go through two cassettes and 2-3 chains + chainrings each a year. However, once we started using Dumondetech, we can get through the entire season on the same cassette. Now, we only replace my chain and chainring really once a season.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty...
Application: Directions state, " Thoroughly clean and dry your chain before the first application of Dumonde Tech (you'll only need to do this once). Apply sparingly and wipe off excess lube with a cotton rag so that the chain's outer surface appears dry. Ride immediately.
In our experience, Dumonde Tech chain lube is easy to apply. It's thick enough that the drops land on the links as it come out of the bottle, but not so runny it leaves a spray of lube across the ground. Skin friendly too, in the event you get some on your hands...
Durability: Dumonde Tech recommends reapplying only when you start to HEAR the chain, not via appearance.
As we mentioned earlier, the lube is literally liquid plastic, so it can't be washed off. It literally bonds to chain links, extending the life of your equipment!
Despite this, regardless of lube need (via sound of course), we clean and lube our chains before every ride. Even if the ride is only a few miles -- it's more a habit than anything else. With that in mind, it's not very often we hear our chain, especially because living in the PNW, our dirt is more loam-based than other locations. With that said, in the hot summer months, or upon travel to more dusty locations, we will REALLY NEED chain lube.
Light vs Original: Relative to mountain biking, we use the original, more concentrated version when conditions are harsh. Think wet, muddy, dusty, gritty. Or.... primo conditions, but a long ride (20+ miles), where we really want to be sure we've got plenty of lube on our chain for the extent of the ride. Otherwise, we primarily use the light lube, for optimum performance: a proper balance between function and lube. You could perhaps argue we should do the opposite, however, I prefer to run light, and lube more often, than run thicker and lube only every so often. Regardless, the durability of the lube makes it particularly good for wet, sloppy conditions.
Smell: It may not smell like lavender, but it doesn't have a strong chemical smell either.
Sound: In our experience, when mountain biking, we can ride around 40 miles in the PNW on "Lite" lube before we hear our chain. Add about 15 miles for the "Original" Lube, and that's one happy cyclist. Road cycling you can expect these numbers to increase significantly (less dirt/dust, etc).
Chain Breakage? Since riding Dumondetech, we have never broken a chain (outside of your crazy mechanical). Coincidence, I think not.
All in all, we have been using Dumonde Tech for the last five years. We use it in the form of chain lube, and various greases for our bike, as well as motorcycles. Based out of Kirkland, Washington, we choose to support PNW local, and have experienced for ourselves the ridiculous durability of the Dumonde Tech product, and the extended life of our equipment. If you haven't tried Dumonde Tech, do it now!
Pro-tip: Dumonde Tech chain lube is safe for use all across your bike -- we even use it in our hubs!
Nick & Kim Hardin
Are you going on an all day ride, deep in the backcountry, where there are little to no resources or are you doing a 1 hour quickie after-work just outside of town?
Regardless, it's important to carry these essentials while out riding, AND know how to use them.
1. Spare tube + Pump + CO2
You never know when you may flat.
If you're tubeless, you'll want to bring a few CO2 cartridges (I carry two). A pump is nice backup if you blow through your CO2, and still need air.
2. Food & Water
Food & water = energy = Fun! Avoid the bonking and pack a bar and/or baby food.
Super important to tighten bolts, make those random adjustments, and generally save the day! A leather-man also comes in handy if you need to cut cables, toy with spokes, etc... It's a bonus if your multi-tool includes a chain breaker!
Depending on the season, this may be a windbreaker, or a full blown rain jacket -- always prepare for the worst, and check the weather before you go.
5. Derailliuer Hanger
This is a super small part that will absolutely SAVE your day. Super simple to replace, if needed, and may I repeat, will absolutely SAVE your day! Note: Each bike has a specific derailleur hanger - this is not a one size fits all situation. Do not leave home without it!
6. Random miscellaneous Parts:
Chainlink/quicklink: Remember, the link you need to carry depends on your specific drivetrain!
Spare valve w/core
Tire levers (unless you have super hands)
7. Random miscellaneous tools:
Zip ties: I fold these in half and stash in the center of my cranks- Handy!
Electrical Tape: Fixes everything from shoes to cable ends -- Do a couple wraps around your seat tube or handle bars for easy storage.
8. Fancy Stuff:
Sunscreen: Because, you know...
Extra pair of gloves: If you know you're going to get caught in the rain, or will be riding a trail with low-hanging wet brush, bring an extra set, and thank me later.
Tire-plugs: I am a huge fan! They take up such little room to carry, and depending on the terrain, may give you your only option to ride vs walk out. If you're somewhere where it's more likely you might see multiple flats -- just bring a plug tool and some extra plugs.
Extra chainlube: For all the geeks out there who hate the dry chain sound, bring a small bottle of extra lube. Or... more realistically, if you're planning to race a dusty epic, pushing all the watts, this will help your chain stay happy and in one piece. I highly recommend Dumondetech...
First Aid Kit: Not a bad idea...
Sunglasses: In the PNW where we're generally riding in the trees, not so much. In Colorado, hike-a-biking over a pass in the alpine, YES! Unless your riding lenses are tinted, of course.
Shameless plug: If you're looking to get some of this "stuff" out of your pack, and lighten the load, consider Dakine's Hot Laps Gripper Frame Pack -- it fits a tube, tire levers and 2 CO2! Super handy, gets the weight off your back and more space in your pack!
Anyone got a 9 and 10? What do you carry in your pack?
Kim & Nick Hardin
When there's a race on your local trails, you've not doubt got to take part -- even if you're off the couch.
The Cascadia Dirt Cup returned to Hood River, Oregon for the fourth year in a row, with a new mix of pedally moto trails to add to the course. My legs screamed from the start, but my heart and mind loved the challenge.
2nd on the day for me on my new Spartan 27.5, behind local ripper Hannah Bergmann - yea girl!
200 women, a whole lot of bikes, rad trails and good eats -- What more would you want from a weekend retreat? This is Roamfest!
There was something for everyone... if you were a shredder, looking to ride Pisgah on the daily and do your own thing, you could take the early morning shuttle, be out all day, and get a ride home just in time for dinner. If you were looking for a more social ride, you could sign up for one of the many "brand rides", and ride alongside industry members. "Less talky, more bikes", RoamFest is a festival all about riding -- there's no on-bike skills clinics, however, there are plenty of instructional clinics at vendor tents: Suspension setting clinic with FOX, Dakine's "What's in your pack?", noting what you should carry in your pack, Leigh Donovan's pump track sessions, and more. It's a perfect place as a female to totally nerd out in the sport, ask all the questions of all the professionals, and be comfortable in your own skin. Already looking forward to Sedona, AZ in November!
Cheers RoamFest for an awesome weekend,
Industry partners all set up
We've got what you need!
Dakine Intermediate Ride
Roots, roots and more roots!
Muddy roots - FUN!
Classic Pisgah Views
Did I mention it was muddy?
Thank goodness for Dumondetech!
Build-a-bike at Reeb's Ranch
Dakine/Hydrapak Happy Hour
Happy Hour means yard games at the Dakine tent
FOX teaching the ladies about suspension
All events should end in a massive sparkler and firework send-off!
“Dumela”, "Good morning/Good Afternoon/Good Night" in Basotho
It was quite the journey, 36 hours of travel time from the Columbia River Gorge to Lesotho, Africa. Known as the Kingdom in the Sky, Lesotho is entirely land-locked by South Africa, and has the highest lowest point of any country in the world (1400m or 4593 ft). It is the only country in the world to be entirely above 1000 meters! It is the land of no fences -- rather, the land is owned by King Letsie III, who gives permission to inhabit the land.
Upon crossing the border in Maseru, capital of Lesotho, it was apparent we were out of our comfort zone, as street vendors lined the streets selling grapes and peaches, rushing vehicles as they sped by. Security were at every gas station wearing kevlar vests, holding a machine gun. We were mean mugged immediately by most of the population as we later learned our van was identical to a taxi, and we weren't stopping to pick anyone up. Shops, SIM card stores and hair salons lined the streets with their corrugated metal siding and roofs, as people roamed the streets. There was no order to this chaos.
We quickly worked our way to Roma and were greeted by the many smiling faces of the children of Lesotho as well as the lovely staff at Roma Trading Post (RTP). The trading post sits at the base of the Maluti Mountains, and up until 2017 was the original site of trade in Roma -- donkeys, grain, cattle, pigs, chickens, you name it. The premise was eventually converted into housing, and is the current site of one of Velosolutions #pumpforpeace pumptrack, offering the children of Roma a place to gather off the street.
So why Lesotho? Why Kingdom Enduro? We met Rene Damseaux and his brother Francois way back when in Molini di Triora Italy, after racing EWS Final Ligure. We rode Final, Molini and San Remo together, becoming quick friends -- We’ve kept in touch and when Rene invites us to his race (in its second year), the first EWS qualifier on the African continent, we knew we couldn’t miss out!
Ladies and Gentleman, meet Rene Damseaux.
Trails in Lesotho are all hand built by Rene and his team of locals — providing jobs within the local community. Trails are rugged, raw, and require hiking to the top, every time. And by top, I mean top of the mountain, because each trail literally starts at the top of a mountain. Trails feature slick rock, rock ledges, boulder gardens, and a tad bit of flow. But mostly techy rock. While the hike-a-bikes are a thing, especially in 90F heat, the views at the top more than make up for it! Not to mention, the herder boys and town children who run alongside you the entire way, “Give me sweets”, “Give me money” or simply to help you push or carry your bike to the top.
We were on bikes upon arrival, riding trails behind RTP with the town children. Practice started the next day, offering a short introduction to local dirt and hike-a-bikes. Over the next few days, we would wake early to beat the heat while riding, and practice days 2, 1 and 3 respectively.
Lunch consisted of chicken and pap: braai (BBQ) chicken with a side of pap (white maiz/cornmash: an accompaniment to every meal), and local greens with peri-peri pepper sauce.
Evenings were filled with crashing thunderstorms and hail that filled the streets with water. Around the dinner table, there was plenty of chatter amongst new friends, mostly from SA, some from Europe, and a few from the states. Notable riders included Chris Johnston, Ludo May, Max Schumann and Fabian Scholz, as well as SA Enduro Champion, Frankie Dupont.
Mid-race, Day 3 (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Race Days came and went: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. While a few trails were pedally, I was very happy with my decision to bring my Spartan 27.5. Trails were rocky, techy and steep, perfect for 165mm travel. The sun and heat were a challenge over the course of long days, but manageable. Days one and two of racing were my favorite, with steep rock roll ins, and challenging, but manageable tech, while Day 3 took tech to the extreme!
Racing through villages along footpaths made for some close calls, mostly with cattle, lots of them. Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Day 1, Stage 1 Start (GoPro)
Day 2. (Photo Keira Duncan, 2018 SA National Champion)
Follow the arrows, slick-rock style! Thanks for the mid-stage motivation, Rene!
Another stage, another start on top of a mountain (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Day 2, Stage 3: Bushman's Pass (Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Nick Hardin, mechanic, foodie, shuttle-driver and mega-husband (Photo: Kim Hardin)
At the end of the three days, I walked away with the win, followed by Frankie Dupont and Sandra Hohl— Pretty happy with that for the first race of the year! Chris Johnston (Santa Cruz) took the win in the men’s, followed by Ludo May (BMC) and SA ripper Tim Bentley.
While out recovering from ACL surgery, Nick wasn’t able to race, but was able to explore local gravel roads, climbing the passes by which the race descended, such as God Help Me Pass, Bushman’s and Blue Mountain.
Of perhaps most important relative to the event was the awareness brought to us regarding the local community. Unbeknownst to us, there were so many kids on the trails because local school teachers were on strike, meaning kids were not in school. This meant that the kids were not getting lunch, and were generally unsupervised throughout the day as parents were working. Poverty is very prevalent in Lesotho and a rising concern, as is the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS -- about 25% of the population are HIV positive. Related to this, Kingdom Enduro raised enough money via Velosolutions to provide meals for all the local kids for a few months! We can only hope more aid comes to this country to help not only the current generation, but the next.
It's Safari time!
The morning after the race, a crew consisting of race director Rene Damseaux, Ludo May, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Fabian Scholz, Nancy Pellissier, Nick & myself took off on a 13 hr journey to Pont Drift, the border of SA and Botswana via Johannesburg for a safari by bike with Cycle Mashatu.
Mashatu operates specifically in the 29,000 hectares (72000 acres) Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the Tuli Game Reserve in the Limpopo province, a known higher-risk malaria area, as well as location of recent foot and mouth disease outbreak (animals only).
Cycle Mashatu, Botswana, Africa (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Entering Botswana, we passed through a "Foot and Mouth Disease Checkpoint" and were required to dip our shoes, and have our bike tires sprayed with chemical (Photo: Kim Hardin)
We were greeted by Mario, one of our guides for the trip, and quickly ushered into Botswana for lunch and a safety briefing: “we do not want to see lions by bike”, “snakes are more scared of us than we are of them” (but there are plenty black mambas, puff adders, and spitting cobras in the area), “stop when I say stop, and be quiet when I say be quiet”.
Mario (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Team Meeting, led by Mario (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
One of the many dry, sandy stream bed crossings. They only see water as flash floods in the summer "rainy season", between November and April (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Once on bikes, we hustled to camp before dark, while quickly learning the ins and outs of safari: the animals are quite different when approached by bike versus vehicle. They see each person as an individual, and us a “herd”, while a vehicle is viewed a one large Individual, making them less threatening, especially as the animals have become accustomed to vehicles on the regular. This meant that when approaching an animal, they would generally run away, or in the case of elephants, want to charge us. It was most important to respect each and every individual animal and give wide berth, especially to Elephants, always having an “escape route”. This is no zoo, this is the real bush, and the animals clearly rule the bush. As we were getting to camp on Day 1, we came across our first Elephant, who quietly stalked us—we looped away only to hear and see a mock charge and trumpet from a second elephant nearby, prompting another loop away. After about 20 minutes of sneaking through the bush, looping our way past Ellie’s, we made it to camp. What an intro! Did I mention, Mario guided us through the bush without use of GPS? He did this everyday over a huge area of land and knew where we were at all times - impressive!
Nancy Pellissier, Ludo May, Rene D., Mario, Nick Hardin, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Kim Hardin and Fabien Scholz under the great Mashatu Tree. (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Breakfast is served: Yogurt, muesli, fruit and fresh-made bread (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The circle of life was very apparent in Mashatu. Fabien shows us a Kudu skull: a savannah "antelope" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Riding in the bush-bush, as Mario says of Day 2 (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Elephants or "Ellies" were everywhere (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, dropping in (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Dinner by fire & coal: Curries, meat stews, boboti, squash, and "pap" were staples.
(Photo: Chris Johnston)
I'd say ACL rehab is going well... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Devinci Spartans in the wild (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Stories by firelight (Photo: Chris Johnston)
When in the bush.... (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
In the middle of no-where, Botswana, taking in the views of Mashatu Game Reserve (Photo: Nick Hardin)
The next few days we rode between 25-35km per day, guided by Mario and Lion. Between the two of our guides, they had over 12 years of experience guiding by bike, and a resulting plethora of knowledge in regards to animals, vegetation, and astronomy.
Photo: Nick Hardin
A group of giraffes is called a genie, while a single giraffe is known as a “tower”. Females have straighter “horns”, while males have tufts at the top.
A lions roar can be heard from over 8km away (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mom and her baby Ellie (Photo: Chris Johnston)
While Lions mate for five straight days, every 5-15 minutes, elephants are pregnant for 24 months! A baby elephant on average weighs 250#. Elephants drink over 150l of water a day, and urinate over 50l of water a day!
Vervet Monkeys do indeed throw shit (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Just your typical Mashatu Safari camp (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A day in the safari life consisted of waking up around 6am to leave by 7am. Once on trail, we would “read the morning newspaper”, looking to the tracks from overnight as to what animals were nearby. We would see giraffes, zebra, impala, and baboons almost immediately, with Eland, cheetah, warthog, and leopard on occasion. The animal density was very high, meaning we never really had to “look” for the animals, they were always there.
Around 12:30pm, we would stop for high tea (Roobios of course. Coffee too, although most drink beer), and observe the hundreds of thorns in our tires. Thank goodness we brought extra sealant! We’d ride for another hour or two, Ludo would find a tree or two to ride down (or up?), while Max and Chris took proper photos, and the rest of us watched in awe. We’d then settle in at camp for a bucket shower and rest— it was simply too hot to be out pedaling midday for very long. Simple but delicious dinners were cooked over coals in cast iron. After an astronomy lesson or two, we’d go to bed and do it all over again the next day, hoping to hear the roar of a lion or cackle of a hyena in the distance.
It may have been 90 degrees out, but high tea was always a welcome stop! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, embracing the way of the Vervet Monkey (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Got sealant? Don't pull the thorns or you'll flat! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Sometimes the "trail" was a road, sometimes the trail was simply our own going off-road through the bush (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
Proper tea time, Landcruiser and all... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The third day of the trip was most memorable: we rounded a corner and our guide Mario stopped abruptly and told us to be very quiet. He pointed to the ground and what was a very fresh lion track. Lion in Mashatu are very elusive (6 in 23,000 hectares) and we were very close to one.
Mario, talking tracks... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mario radioed the sighting, and a larger safari truck came for support, while we pedaled in a direction opposite that from the tracks. Whew, that was close! I think we all were excited about seeing a lion, but not so excited to be on the ground with one, especially if it didn’t like bikes.
That evening we “rolled da wheels” (Mario’s queue in Afrikaan accent), into our last camp: Rather than sleep in tents, we slept under the stars, in a “Boma” of sorts, a protected circle with a fire in the middle. Vervet monkeys made home in the Mashatu tree above us, greeting us with plenty of entertainment upon arrival (shit-throwing). The go-away bird was almost constant “wahhhh”, and quickly became the group’s “chant”. We were told to watch for lions as “this area has quite a few”. I was still on the look out for snakes.
Our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A view inside our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Nick and Rene, taunting the nearby baboons (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Chris Johnston making the most of sundown next to the renown Baobab Tree, Africa's Iconic "Tree of Life" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Throughout the night, baboon and Hyena talked nearby, but the lions stayed away. Rhinoceros bugs were a plenty, as were the “talky talky” big, known to beat their legs against their chest as they walk in search of a female.
Our last morning came quickly, and we hustled back to the border, full of new perspective and appreciation for such a special experience. Between the Kingdom Enduro and our Cycle Safari, we're reminded how simple life is, and how it's not things that enrich our lives, but the people and experiences along the way.
Kim & Nick Hardin
Each and every person's feet are unique: short, long, wide, narrow, smelly, the works.... Giro makes a shoe for everyone, one that's comfortable, stays in place and well outperforms other brands.
For Nick and I, that shoe is the Terraduro Mid. Cousin to the Terraduro, the Mid offers greater ankle protection on a similar Vibram platform.
Upon putting on the shoe, you notice the higher ankle on the shoe immediately, as well as rubberized high-traction Vibram sole, with rubber heel and toe reinforcement -- nice for those of us who find ourselves wanting a minimalist clipless shoe with a sole we can still hike about in. I've climb up and down some gnarly stuff in these shoes, and never found myself slipping. You'll lose trust in yourself relative to what you can walk on before you lose trust in these shoes!
Simple, but Fancy:
Upon putting on the shoes, you'll notice they are simple, but fancy. Simple in terms of the lace system and outer shroud, but fancy in the details of the design: Evofiber Uppers (water repellant, easily cleanable, high breathability), Vibram sole and molded EVA footbed. You'll also notice the shoe itself has limited seams, meaning the shoe is lighter, and has less places for water to enter the shoe when standing around in the rain (or dancing in puddles!). The cleat "pocket" is water sealed.
I've worn these shoes on all day epics, crossing creeks, hike a biking for hours, grocery shopping, even road biking, and have never gotten blisters, anywhere on my feet, no matter my sock choice. They are the most comfortable pair of cycling shoes I've ever worn, and offer support both where you want and need.
I wear these shoes throughout most of the year, however, do find myself switching to a proper Gore-tex lined winter shoe for winter. Granted, we ride in the snow quite a bit, and temperatures regularly dip into the 20's, but these aren't quite warm enough for year round riding in the PNW.
I've worn these shoes in all conditions, and am impressed at the quality of construction. I generally go through a pair of shoes a year with the amount of riding and general beating-up of shoes I do, however, I just finished my second season on a pair and they look the same as they did a year ago. Not one thread is dangling. Sole shows normal wear, but no peeling or abnormal wear. The outer material wipes clean easily, and the footbed has held up well. I may even try to get a third season out of them!
These shoes will take anything you can throw at them, including those all day adventures and nature hikes (because you forgot your hiking shoes). Expect the best because they are the best. Giro knows what's up!
As soon as we're done practicing, it's game on to get our bikes ready for race day.
Generally this involves a bike wash, wheel swap (cassette, brake rotor, and tire), fine tuning of drivetrain, as well as a swap out of whatever parts you may want to change or replace (for performance decisions, as well as if any damage was done during practice).
Let's just say that life as a blue collar racer isn't as glamorous as it is for the true professionals.
While factory riders sit back analyzing Go Pro videos, eating all the snacks, taking naps, and generally resting while their mechanics and team managers take care of things, Nick and I are generally hustling from practice to wheel/tire swap (don't forget the cassette and rotors), to food, to watching GoPro far too late into the night where we ask ourselves are we benefitting from watching this more than the the sleep we are losing from staying up so late.
Over the years, we've figured out ways to make this bike prep more efficient from a blue collar standpoint, while ensuring we're able to rest as much as possible, recover from practice, replenish calories, and get ourselves ready mentally for race day.
Here's our top five tips for race day prep:
1. Bring a Spare Wheelset with New Tires Pre-Beaded
A spare wheel set is self explanatory. New Tires pre-beaded with sealant may not be.
Ideally whatever type of wheel you are practicing on (aluminum or carbon), you are racing on. Each wheel rides a little differently as they vary in internal/external widths, as well as stiffness (particularly laterally). Not enough to truly make a big deal, but it's noticeable. Between the lines, get to know your gear....
New tires already mounted (& beaded!) is not self explanatory. For the longest time, we would bring a spare wheel set, but wait to mount tires, as we wanted to be sure we were choosing the right tire for the conditions. This is very important, however, between a little ahead-of-time research (reading trail reports -- are trails clay based and slick when it rain? Is it rocky and dusty? What does the weather look like for race weekend?), you can make a pretty good condition on the tires you will be running. Mount brand ones on your race wheels, and add sealant BEFORE you leave for the race). After practice, once you've had your wheels on the dirt, you can decide if you want to change your race tire, but you've potentially saved your time knowing it was forecasted to rain, by mounting your favorite wet tire. Worst case you pull it off and simply have another spare laying around in case you get a flat.
Not to mention, in foreign countries it can be very difficult to find compressed air to properly bead your tire. In Italy, I think it took us three hours to find a gas station with a hose that fit our valves. In Chile, I borrowed a plastic Coca Cola liter version of an "AirShot" that was terrifying, but did the job.
With the invention of the "Burst" pumps, that pre-pressurize a chamber via pump-action and release it in one go into the tire, it is less common of a problem in terms of mounting tires, but still something to be aware of.
By Colombia, we'd learned and mounted new tires on BOTH practice and race wheelsets, giving us a few tread options for race day, not to mention the few extra tires we brought along as well.
We didn't have to do any last minute tire swaps. Our race day wheels were ready, minus rotors and made for a much easier evening, saving time for dinner and GoPro Review.
Remember: you can always go to a bike shop and buy tires, BUT it's highly likely they won't have your casing of chose, and will be out of CO2, especially if an international race focused in a small town. Call ahead and have them hold CO2 for you, or plan to find elsewhere.... On another note, I do not recommend flying with CO2 -- our boarding passes were taken away from us in Colombia for having it, after three years of no problems. You decide if it's worth the risk!
AND... if you have to mount tires the night before race day, be sure you check tread direction.....
2. Bring a Mini-drill!
Mini-drills can save boat loads of time, and headaches.... especially when it comes to rotor bolts. Make sure you've got the right head for your bolts, and blast away (but always remember to hand start - no one needs a stripped out hub).
Top of the World, Whistler
3. BYOB: Bring-your-own-food
Food is vital to recovering from practice, but also to your success on race day.
By bringing all your on-bike food with you from home you can save on grocery shopping time, while still ensuring you get what you need. We like baby food packets, bacon, nuts, whole food whenever possible, and bars if necessary (fewer ingredients the better -- Larabar, Kate's, Kind).
Not to mention, sometimes, at international aide stations, you'll roll up and there's loads of chocolate, waifers, and chips. If that's your go-to, good for you. Otherwise, you might be screwed. Always bring your own food.
Nick pondering trail snacks in Argentina
4. Pre-trip tune
If your schedule allows, get a pre-race tune before you leave your home. Chances are you hit the ground running once you get to your destination, going for practice then racing. There's not a whole lot of extra ride time prior to racing. After all, you want to save your energy.
With this in mind, go ahead and replace your cable and housing, service your fork/shock if needed, bleed your brakes and replace your pads, bleed your seat dropper, swap to new tires on practice and race wheels (see #1). While you can have a shitty or generally heinous practice day that has you doing all this the night before race day, you can at least try to do what you can to save yourself time (and parts!).
However, just because this was done, doesn't mean it shouldn't be looked over, and practice take into consideration relative to wear and tear on parts. How does my cable look post practice? How about my brake pads? What's the weather like tomorrow/what's the dirt like -- should I be concerned my pads will wear all the way?
5. Bring Spares and Learn How to Work on your bike.
Dakine's new bike bag fits ALL the spares, and more! Pack those nooks and crannies!
Self-explanatory -- this saves loads of times, and stress.
You're no longer waiting in a massive line at Shimano or SRAM to get your brakes bled, or snag a new rear derailleur (which they might not even have) or running to a bike shop for new pedals.
While it's time saving to sometimes keep out of the Shimano/SRAM pits, they are mighty fun!
Speaking of balance, my weekend opened up, so I decided to head north for a weekend at the inaugural Raging River Festival! Put on by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Saturday featured an XC and Sunday an Enduro on mostly new (ish) trails along the I90 corridor near Seattle, Washington. This zone was only recently established as a riding area, and has so much room for growth, especially noting its proximity to Tiger Mountain and Exit 27 trails.
For Sunday's Enduro, the Cascadia Dirt Cup put together a course of about 29 miles on trails such as "Invictus" and "No Service". It was a collective of about every kind of trail you can ride: rooty tech (lots of pumping), flow tabletops and doubles, tight & twisty flow, loamy chutes... a little bit of everything-- One of the most unique local venues of the year for sure!
Schedule had us doing one shuttle lap for practice late Saturday, followed by a quick tire swap, and bike tune for Sunday's race.
Despite some of the warmest temperatures on record for 2018, the event went off with a BANG early Sunday. We made quick work of the transfer to stage 1, and lily-padded and pumped our way down the first two stages, to re-learn to corner on stage 3, and hit some jumps on the way down stage 4. Such a cool venue, and an amazing inaugural event -- I will be back!
All in all was a great weekend, with some first place bling to take home to the family. Thanks for having me Camille and Trey, CDC!